The desire for self-determination and freedom is great. So why didn't Israel cheer?
If adversities occur, the search for someone blameworthy immediately begins. And he must then put up with some accusations and distortions: The angry mob wants to stone Moses. The experience of this conflict shows how freedom must be re-established against all resistance. This requires a lesson in history. There is a need for someone who tells the history, and at least for some people who remember it: Moses, the elders. The staff updates the experience of Exodus and the rock updates the attainment of the laws, the commandments of freedom. hak
In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock? So Moses cried out to the Lord, What shall I do with this people? a little more and they will stone me! The Lord answered Moses, Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink. This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel. The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the Lord, saying, Is the Lord in our midst or not?
Was the event on the mountain a performance – and Jesus a kind of performance artist? The Greek original text refers to it as a metamorphosis: a modification of the form. Luther translated „er ward verklärt“ (“he was transfigured”), the current lectionary for the liturgy, as „er wurde verwandelt“ (“he was transformed”). Which translation is best?
The way of life is changing for those who know that they stand before God as his creatures and co-responsibles for the creation – and Jews and Christians are those. Life gets reoriented, transformed. For Jesus, the Son, this applies in a very unique way. He shines, as the face of Moses had shone, after he had stood before God on the mountain.
And what about the term „Verklärung“ (“transfiguration”)? For the people, Jesus represents God Himself. This is the „Klärung“ (“clarification”), a clarity that can hardly be borne for us, since it disrupts the varnish and brings up everything that's dark, everything that's not directed to God's will. bek
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply: Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him. When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying: Rise, and do not be afraid. And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them: Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.
The snake seems to know humans better than we do. It's not the permission “You might eat from all trees except this one”, but the promise of the snake that leads to its success: “You will know what is good and what is evil, you will be like God”.
And by twisting the meaning of the aforementioned right around: “Are you really not allowed to eat from any tree?” it provokes Eve's exaggerated reaction to the tree in the middle: “Not even touching it!” At the end, Adam and Eve stand naked, not because their clothes are missing, but – following the Midrash's teachings – because they lost the protecting command. mim
The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. Then Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God had made. The serpent asked the woman: Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden? The woman answered the serpent: We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die. But the serpent said to the woman: You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil. The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Economists of God
When Paul speaks of himself and the members of the community in Corinth as the “administrators of the secrets of God”, he refers to the nonreligious thinking of Jesus.
Again and again, Jesus puts an oikonomos, an administrator, at the center of his parables. It is about the fidelity in dealing with the entrusted good. In order to fulfill their mission, the disciples must be wise, act rationally, and not fear the risk. That's why following is not really pilgrimage or a thought-building, but rather faithful and daring action. acb
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.
We are Pope?
The book of Leviticus shows: Charity is not a thought originating from the New Testament, it is deeply rooted in the commandments of Israel. But what does this “love as thyself” mean?
The measure at that time, the “self”, was the solidarity of the clan. We can recognize a remnant of clan solidarity when “we” are suddenly “Pope”. And this solidarity, which is bestowed upon one's own clan, is meant to prevail in Israel half a millennium before the birth of Christ, even to whom one's own relatives see as an enemy. The love of the enemy in Leviticus determines as injust someone who takes revenge or bears grudges. hak
The Lord said to Moses, Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
The world's turning point
The technical skills of man have developed over thousands of years. Just as his language. Likewise, his religion. What was it about in the beginning?
Winning gods grace, keeping him well tempered with all sorts of sacrifices and rites. In case a misfortune happened or a plague came, they unanimously said: “The gods are hungry!” However, like a worldwide bang, suddenly a radical turnaround happened in Israel: Stop your sacrifices, avoid the altar – first go and look for whom you are at feud with, and make peace with him. “Then come and sacrifice your gift.” The world's turning point?
Indeed, when you and I – instead of blindly storming God's heaven – truly become brothers and sisters to each other. Then a revolution occurs, calmly and quietly, undocumented in any chronicle, but nevertheless stronger than all of the world's armouries, as it comes from heaven.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
“Salt of the earth”, “light of the world”, “city on a mount” – Jesus defines his disciples' identities with these and similar images. He doesn't suggest the ethical imperative “You shall” to his listeners.
He states facts: “You are”. He doesn't care about the “You”, the socially engaged individual. He says “You all”. This “You all” is today realised in community. Towards what it aligns itself with determines what its impact will be. Zest and radiance are augured, but not self-evident. mim
Jesus said to his disciples: You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.
The humble and poor in Zefaniah are not a slack group of timid, less fortunate and indecisive people who are looking for God for lack of the better. They're in fact hard-hitting realists who accept only God's measure in their search for justice.
Humble realism cannot be discouraged by the constant lagging behind the measure. And poor in the sense of the prophet is, who stubbornly contents himself with nothing less than the richness of the faith provided by God. The virtue of modesty is not a synonym for this, but quite the opposite. tac
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.
Why does the craftsman of Nazareth choose fishermen as his first contributors?
Maybe because they were in the right place at the right time? Or maybe because fishermen are used to work together, have learned to be awake, and know what endurance means: each day business starts all over again. Being faithful Jews, they also expect the coming of the new world of God. And they are realistic enough to know that their collaboration is required. But where and how? This becomes clear for them when they hear the words of Jesus calling them. They let themselves be gathered, to gather – with the expertise of those who know what is important. hak
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.
The horizon is great and the hero of the story is rather small – the task is a global one and the recipient of the mission is almost entirely alone.
These are the proportions in which the reading of the prophet Isaiah sees the mission of Israel. The person Isaiah calls “servant” represents the People of God, Israel. As a small gathered nation, Israel is supposed to be the “light of nations”. Already at the time of the ancient world empires, it was just a tiny group, an insignificant people. But it had a universal effect, because again and again it lived as the People of God, letting itself get corrected and reformed, until today. The prophet also knows that in the People of God there must be “servants”, whose serving and humility are the nucleus of renewal and give shape to the success of the whole. These proportions are still valid today. acb
The Lord said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, the Lord says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.